Review: Fall Out Boy – MANIA

Fall-Out-Boy-2017-cr-pamela-littky

MANIA may be the most infuriating album of the last few years, and one of the few to actually exist and live by its name. Announced nearly a year in advance, launched with a lackluster single, delayed six months, and posted with the wrong tracklist on every digital platform, MANIA is a mess at every conceivable angle. And yet, it is absolutely brilliant.

You can buy MANIA on iTunes.

It is the direct result of Fall Out Boy’s experimentation in pop since their reformation in 2013. The songs are cleaner and the choruses reflect the soaring experiences of Folie À Deux. But MANIA is an experience unto itself that forces you to earn its respect. This will surely be Fall Out Boy’s most divisive album for a number of reasons, but one stands out in particular: There are accidentally two versions of it. If nothing else, the album is a master class in how the order of the tracks can make or break an album.

The initial digital release (the wrong tracklist) held to my belief that I wouldn’t care for MANIA. It sounded dourer and lacked the energy I expect of FOB; just a bunch of uninspired singles with “Young and Menace” as its thesis. However, once the tracklist for the physical release appeared (the right one) and the songs were rearranged, it completely and utterly changed everything. MANIA was an entirely different album that somehow shined and overflowed with the confident sway of Fall Out Boy. It was tight, concise and moved seamlessly.

This version of MANIA is the best album Fall Out Boy have released since Infinity on High.

This album shines with the sound of a classic the way the band’s early releases did. After the unarguable mixed results of pushing the radio-pop sound of their last two albums, MANIA focuses those efforts to a fine point. The guitars are more noticeable than any release since their pop punk days, the percussion is hypnotic, and the bass is monstrous. Patrick Stump, already guaranteed to give a stellar performance, absolutely soars. If the singles didn’t impress upon initial release, listen to them in the context of the album. I don’t know what black magic is at work, but it somehow changes everything.

Opener “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” is a dark rock song with a deep bass that sets up the album with a thesis of acknowledging a chaotic world and the frustrations in it, but how a belief in yourself can overcome it. “The Last of the Real Ones” is a raging pop song centered on imagery of celestial bodies spinning in space.

One of the biggest surprises is the pairing of “Church” and “Heaven’s Gate” at the midpoint of the album. “Church” is an epic sounding rock song that focuses on Pete Wentz’s melodic bass leading a ‘church’ choir through the song. Accompanied by the soft chime of bells and Andy Hurley’s hard percussion, Stump finds equal footing in the love song and prays for a way through personal demons as he sings, “I love the world but I just don’t like the way it makes me feel / Got a few more fake friends and it’s getting hard to know what’s real”.

“Heaven’s Gate” is much softer, with a soul sound that allows Stump’s vocals to jump in spectacular fashion. If you ever needed proof that he may be the best vocalist of any rock band, this will be all the evidence you need. Propelled by the strength of “Church” before it, “Heaven’s Gate” feels all the stronger when Stump croons, “Give me a boost over heaven’s gate / I’m gonna need a boost cause everything else is a substitute for your love”.

Which brings us to “Young and Menace”, the reason I initially soured to MANIA a year before it was even released. An EDM inspired hot mess with a bare thread chorus, I have found this song near unlistenable since its release if for no other reason than the high pitched sampling of Stump’s vocals during the breakdown. However, sitting near the end of the album (instead of the opening track), it is propelled by the songs before it and doesn’t sound nearly as out of place.

After the soaring choruses and precise pop of songs like “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T”, “Young and Menace” is an acknowledgement of Fall Out Boy’s mixed reception since their reformation. The song itself is the most extreme sound they’ve ever attempted, as though it is meant to turn off listeners. However, as Stump sings, “I’m just here flying off the deep end / I’m just here to become the best yet / I’m here for the psych assessment / I’m just here for the, for the fall”, it’s a message to fans that they are aware that they aren’t writing the punk songs half of their fanbase still wants. Instead, they know what direction they to travel in order to become the best band they can be.

MANIA is an anomaly that may just change your opinion of it based on what tracklist you hear. It forces you to work to enjoy it. But once it clicks, it is a beast that harnesses years of experimentation. Even a song as manic as the garbage fire of “Young and Menace” feel like one big feint to throw you off the trail, just to swing out of nowhere. It took a year to make me excited about this album, but it was absolutely worth the wait.

5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and cannot accept how much he enjoys MANIA. On a scale of just and even, he is sooooo can’t. See you at Wrigley, you monsters of music.

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